Benner Family Law breaks down the legal fees associated with hiring an attorney.

Legal Costs

The Cost of your Case                                                                                                              

Family law cases are difficult enough before you consider the unknown fees and legal costs. The bad news is that most attorneys cannot tell you how much your case is going to cost. They will quote you a “retainer” or an advanced fee deposit, but they cannot confirm whether your initial fee deposit will be enough to cover the final bill. The average cost throughout the country is approximately $20,000 per divorce. However, I have cases cost less than $500, while others end up costing $75,000.

Despite the uncertainty, there are factors that can provide you with insight into how expensive your case will be and there are tasks you can do to reduce the time your attorney will need to spend on your case.

You should first consider:

  • how much money you can afford to spend or borrow to pay for your case;
  • how much income and assets are at stake;
  • is you or your child’s personal safety at stake;
  • whether you believe you are competent to handle the administrative tasks and/or court appearances.

Family Court Issues

How many issues in your case are contested? These are the issues to consider:

For Divorces:

  • Division of Property
  • Division of Debt
  • Alimony/Maintenance
  • Attorney Fees
  • Child Custody
  • Child Visitation
  • Child Support

For Modifications:

  • Attorney Fees
  • Child Custody
  • Child Visitation
  • Child Support

For Paternity Cases:

  • Attorney Fees
  • Child Custody
  • Child Visitation
  • Child Support
  • Birthing Costs
  • The Child’s Last Name

For Guardianship Cases:

  • The Consent of Natural Parents
  • The Consent of other family members
  • Whether ward as any income or significant assets
  • Health insurance and other expenses

How many of these issues are in dispute? The more you agree upon (or the more that do not apply) the less your cost is likely to be.

DIY minimizes cost

Can you do all the paperwork yourself? First it depends upon the facts of your case. Do you have children? Do you have real estate? Do you and the opposing party agree upon everything? Next, can you handle the administrative work? You need to have meticulous attention to detail because forms that omit information will be returned to you and delay the case proceedings. In the right circumstances, you can save a lot of money by filing your own case without an attorney. Remember, when you hire an attorney you are also hiring someone to worry about the administrative and filing details. That may be worth the fees it cost, when a family law issue is already emotionally difficult enough.

How save yourself attorney fees

An experienced family law attorney will know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to working out the outcome in your favor. You may save some money in some cases if you choose to hire one, especially if there are thousands of dollars at stake. However, you still must be careful. In a traditional hourly billing arrangement, an attorney will bill you for every minute of his or her time. This means that if you treat your attorney as if they are a friend and decide to call them every day to talk about your feelings, it is going to cost you a lot of money, which could be better spent on a good therapist.

Another consideration that can affect your attorney fees is how quickly and thoroughly you complete the tasks that are asked of you, such as providing statements or documents. Failing to provide the correct information in timely manner will cost you more money in the long run.

Flat Fees

Flat fees are becoming increasingly popular with family law clients. Once the flat fee has been agreed upon, the attorney will be strongly obligated not to waste any unnecessary time and to complete the case efficiently for the agreed-upon cost. On your end, you will know exactly how much you will pay. However, the attorney takes on all the risk if the case is more difficult than anticipated or if the client fails to be forthcoming. For this reason, most attorneys require a large fee for a flat fee case to cover this risk.

Limited-Scope Representation

This is a hybrid between a flat fee arrangement and a DIY case. In a limited-scope representation agreement, you agree upon a price for the attorney do only do specific work in your case, while you complete the remaining work. This could be to do with calculating child support or handling court appearances which you may find too challenging to handle on your own.

Ways to Pay

  1. Cash or savings. If you have money accessible to you, this is the best way to pay for your legal fees.
  2. Credit Cards. Many people resort to credit cards to finance the expense of a legal action. Most attorneys accept credit cards. Additionally, in a divorce case, the credit card may be considered a marital debt that is divided between the parties.
  3. Borrowing money from retirement account. Some people withdraw money from their retirement account or take a loan against their retirement account to pay for attorney fees. You should be aware that you may have penalties and taxes associated with early withdrawal of the funds.
  4. Borrowing money from family or friends. If you have family or friends that are willing to help you pay your legal fees, please be aware that you need to establish boundaries with your attorney and the other party about that person’s involvement in the case. Even if another person pays your fees, you are the clients and third parties are not entitled to information about your case without your permission.
  5. Divorce funding. Third-party divorce funding is a new option that you should explore if you do not have access to money, credit or family to assist you financially. Several companies to investigate include:
    1. http://www.balancepointfunding.com/
    2. http://newchaptercapital.com/what-we-do
    3. http://mylegalloan.com/